Thursday, May 29, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Vin vino is a standing bar in Ebisu. It first opened in 1999 and was one of the first standing bars in Tokyo. Toshi first went there in 2000 and has been a regular patron ever since. What is special about the standing bar concept is that in a country like Japan - which has a fairly closed culture where it can be quite difficult to meet people outside of your immediate group - it allows strangers to easily mingle amongst each other. In fact it's almost impossible to not strike up a conversation with others who are there because Vin Vino is about 20 metres squared in size (including the bar itself) so with 20 people inside it feels like a very intimate gathering. Vin Vino is owned and run by Kon chan who loves 80s rock music and pumps out cheesy 80s music videos around the clock.
After a few drinks, we go to Kiryu, a two minute walk from Vin Vino. Kiryu is an izakaya (literally a place where you sit and drink) style restaurant that is very low key but serves fantastic food. There are a few dishes that we always have (their menu never changes) - yamaimo teppan (baked yam), natto (fermented soybean), maguro yamakake (raw tuna with raw egg), asari kare (clam soup curry).
Friday, May 23, 2008
Icy cold beer
Amuse bouche of daikon and quail eggs and tsukemono (pickles)
Grilled broad beans
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
- Lamb shoulder
- Red onion
- Tomato paste
- Garam masala
For survival cooking in an Afghan kitchen in winter you will need a 1970s inspired lamb skin vest, kashmir wrap, woollen jumper, thermal underwear, fingerless gloves, Campari (neat), as pictured below.
Mutton dressed as lamb
The first time I made a korma it started out as a lamb roast. By the time the meat was roasted in a tiny electric box, it was too tough to chew and grey, and it was clear this lamb was no spring chicken. The resident guesthouse cook took pity on me and turned it into a korma simply by hacking up the nasty mutton and throwing it into the pressure cooker with some tomatoes and pumpkin.
Afghan sheep are tall furry beasts that feature a massive deposit of fat that swings over their bottoms. For months I thought sheep were goats because of their habit of grazing on plastic bottles and garbage. This should explain why the meat is completely inedible.
While you think you will be buying fresh succulent lamb from the butchers’ market..
..you will actually buy a 14 year old sheep covered in detritus.
- Don your thermals, woollen jumper, fingerless gloves, lamb vest and big Kashmir scarf (as above) as it should be around minus ten degrees celsiusin your kitchen. Pour a Campari, get a little toasted, and get your lamb out.
- By now you should have realized the lamb shoulder you bought from the market is actually a very very old sheep. It should be difficult to cut through the flesh, so try to keep the pieces small as you cube it. Throw this into the pressure cooker, along with twice as much cubed pumpkin, two roughly chopped onions, ten chopped little tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato paste, a cup of water and a splash of oil. Add a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of garam masala, and some pepper if you want to be fancy. Don’t stir it, Afghans never do. Screw the lid on, and place over a powerful industrial strength flame that threatens to set your fingerless gloves on fire.
- Let it pressurize the meat and vegies for fifteen minutes or so, then release the steam and open the cooker to add chopped parsley and more water. Another five minutes and there you have it, one of many variants on the Afghan korma.
- Serve with some dahl, yoghurt, champagne, Afghan naan and an increasing feeling of isolation.
The Afghan Pressure Cooker
The Afghan pressure cooker is a solution to all cooking disasters - you can load it up with overcooked flesh or over-salted veges, and it breaks that mess down into a delicious golden stew in minutes. A large metal urn-like contraption, you fill it up, screw the lid on, bang it on the raging industrial strength flame, and watch it shoot out jets of steam that smell like a sheep. Of course, Afghans also like to steam their vegetables in the pressure cooker, revealing a preference for a diet with minimal colour and nutritional value.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I'm in the new terminal building, where I have free and fast internet access. I had a delicious hot and sour noodle soup at a very decent Chinese restaurant for lunch followed by a reasonable foot massage, and now, I'm sitting in a wine bar writing this blog, while sampling three good Italian red wines from the wine tasting menu (note to my mum - they are not full glasses - just a little bit of each) and snacking on some very nice Brie.
Things could be much, much worse...
Monday, May 5, 2008
You can make ai manas by grating a lot of really hot small red chilis, chopping fresh limes into small pieces, chopping some onions very finely, mixing it all together and adding some salt. It needs to rest for a few days, so the flavors can meld together and then it's an absolute show stopper. I keep eating and eating it, even when it really hurts because it's so damn hot.
I'm in Bali now - my favorite place in the world. Off to Australia tomorrow to see family and friends. I wonder if I can sneak that bottle of ai manas through...